The first of the Three Oaths is to "speak no word that is not true." As such, would someone who is bound by this oath be forced to keep their promises? Moiraine makes plenty of off-hand promises, like "I will destroy you before I let the shadow have you" amongst others.

I guess I want to know whether or not the first oath would make all other oaths sworn after that, whether done on the Oath Rod or not, equally binding.

3 Answers 3


Intent is a big part of the Oath.

The intent to deceive is what determines whether a word spoken is "not true". If the speaker believes it to be true, it is considered "true" for the purposes of the Oath. If Moiraine believes that she would destroy Rand before letting the Shadow take him, then her uttering that phrase would be true.

However... circumstances change, and words that were true can cease to be true. This does not seem to conflict with the Oath at all.

If an Aes Sedai said "I'm going to put this egg in the basket in the other room", and then went to find that the basket was no longer there, she has not violated her Oath, nor is she now compelled to Quest to find the basket, put it back in the room, and put that egg in it.

It is entirely possible to say you'll do something under the Oath, and then later change your mind and not do it. There's no way the Oath could operate without allowing for that, otherwise the attrition of Aes Sedai who said they were going to do something that they found they could not, or should not, follow through on would be so great that either they would have modified the Oath, or ceased to exist as an organization.

Formal oaths, however, have a stronger weight, and would be amplified by the Oath sworn on the Rod. Someone swearing "by the Light" or other variations of formal oaths would likely be bound to adhere to the terms of those oaths as best they could, if they were an Aes Sedai who had previously been bound by the Three Oaths.

  • 2
    I think the key element is that the oath would prevent the AS herself from taking any action that would invalidate her oath; she could not, in your example, first move the basket somewhere else, then claim that there was no basket in the other room.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 13:43
  • @MichaelEdenfield That's a good point.
    – Anthony
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 2:08
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    @KutuluMike Actually, once the promise is spoken, the Aes Sadai could do anything she wished. As long as she believed she would unfailingly do what she said she would when she said it, she could make the promise. The Oath only pertains to what she says, not her actions after. There are many ways around the Oath. Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 17:13
  • 1
    I think that's up for debate. The Aes Sedai would be unable to speak a promise they didn't honestly believe they could and would hold to. If they considered ways around it before they said it, wouldn't that be considered "lying" ?
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 20:09

In theory, yes. That's why many of them swearing for the Dragon was such a big deal, and why fealty oaths in general are very big deals for them. However, it's noted that Aes Sedai are only bound by what they believe their words to mean. They are also shown as quite capable of self-delusion, so there's a lot of wiggle-room.

You also have to be sure that they even promised what you thought they promised in the first place! They're known for being very, very good at hoodwinking people like that.


This is my first post - I've read for a long time - so apologies if I've not got the formatting of the answer right.

Aes Sedai cannot outright lie - that does mean they can avoid telling the whole truth.They wanted to be bound by this even if it did not help them.

"Bound by the Oath against lying, Aes Sedai had carried the halftruth, the quarter-truth and the implication to arts. Useful arts, in Egwene's opinion. Especially with Aes Sedai. The Three Oaths did no one any favors, least of all Aes Sedai." (Egwene; Lord of Chaos, Chapter 39)

Those that were stilled wanted to swear back as soon as possible.

"The Oaths make Aes Sedai more than just channelers who meddle in the affairs of the world. They tie every living and dead sister together and make people trust them (Siaun; The Path of Daggers, Chapter 15)

When they attempted to lie they found themselves actually not being able to.

"The oath rod has only been shown to prevent actions that would break the oaths. For example, a Sister's tongue will cleave to the top of her mouth if she tries to lie, preventing speech" - Wikipedia article | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aes_Sedai

With Verin in her final hour:

Verin is able to tell Egwene all of this because she had poisoned
herself, and a loophole in her Black Ajah oaths, "not to betray the
Great Lord, to keep my secrets until the hour of my death," allows her
to betray them since her death was then imminent. She does not believe
that she would be redeemed but gives Egwene two books, one with
details of the Black Ajah and the other with the cipher to decode it.
The Gathering Storm, Chapter 39 discuss this scene.

With that being said - it seems they cannot lie or tell partial truths. There is much debate over at Dragonmount with Elaida and her fork toungue.

  • Sure, I know what the oath is. What I want to know is if the first oath would hold an Aes Sedai to a promise, whether she wanted to keep it or not.
    – Anthony
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 3:59
  • Apologies for the downvote, but I don't think this answers the question as written. Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 8:29
  • Sorry, I didn't clearly explain myself. Nor did I add all I wanted to say. I believe there aren't many (if any) examples show you an outright lie. You either tell the truth or you can tell a part of something that is true. The part truths leave room open for interpretation! Their promises can be taken as spoken - left to the interpretation of the recipient but means another thing to the Aes Sedai. I am on a re-read through again and I will be on the look out for examples. Samuel Walker - That's fine. Re-reading what was in my head and what is written are different. Thanks for the honesty.
    – Pandom
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 11:46

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